Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2024

Ja’Loup Makes A Clean Sweep At Arizona Season Finale

The reliable chestnut brings Dr. Marlee Hoffman multiple honors.

When Dr. Marlee Hoffman bought Ja’Loup six years ago, she wasn’t planning to have him long. “I bought him with the intent of keeping him for a year and then selling him. But I fell in love with him; he’s a big dog. So, I decided that I’m not ever selling him,” Hoffman said.

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The reliable chestnut brings Dr. Marlee Hoffman multiple honors.

When Dr. Marlee Hoffman bought Ja’Loup six years ago, she wasn’t planning to have him long. “I bought him with the intent of keeping him for a year and then selling him. But I fell in love with him; he’s a big dog. So, I decided that I’m not ever selling him,” Hoffman said.

Ja’Loup, a 10-year-old Selle Français gelding, has rewarded her with many wins. And at the Arizona Season Finale, Nov. 19-23, in Scottsdale, the combination made a clean sweep of the amateur-owner hunter, 18-35, division for the tricolor and then won the junior/amateur-owner hunter classic.

“He just has a great personality. If I’m sick, he knows and takes care of me. Or, if I’m on my game, he feels it and rises to the occasion. He’s a very kind soul; I’m very blessed,” Hoffman said.

“He’s game. He’s very in tune. In a handy hunter class, we had a long gallop down to an oxer. I turned the corner and put my leg on him, and he said ‘Really?’ So, I put my leg on him again, and he said ‘OK, I see it!’ and he galloped down to the fence and he was perfect. He’s really smart, and he gives 100 percent every time.”

Hoffman, of Paradise Valley, Ariz., bought “Joss” six years ago from Rebecca Johanson-Hofmann, who imported him from Europe. He started out in the professional divisions with Michael Dennehy. But in early 2006, Joss got hurt while showing in the regular working hunters. “In the air, he hit himself with his other hoof, in the tendon. He tried to pretend like he wasn’t hurt, but we realized there was something wrong,” Hoffman said.

Joss had a hole in his tendon. Hoffman’s vet, Dr. Ross Rich, advised using stem cell therapy to speed the healing, and after a year of rehabilitation, Joss was ready to show again. “We didn’t know if we’d ever get him back to jumping, but Dr. Rich actually got him sound again,” Hoffman said.

Joss showed lightly in 2007 and this year came back strong, topping the U.S. Equestrian Federation Zone 8 amateur-owner hunter, 18-35, year-end standings and the Performance Horse Registry Silver Stirrup amateur-owner national standings and placing ninth in the USEF national standings in her division.

“It really started to come together for the both of us,” Hoffman said. “I had shown him in the amateurs before he got hurt, but we were still getting to know each other. It was just starting to click and he got hurt, so it was a real disappointment.”

Hoffman has ridden since she was 5. “I’ve done barrels, roping, dressage, eventing, parades, all kinds of things,” she said. “When I was growing up, I didn’t have grooms. I braided and hauled and did all my own care. I think that makes me a more well-rounded horsewoman.”

During her junior years, she concentrated on the hunter ring and found The Ambassador, a special horse that she showed in the children’s, adult amateur and amateur-owner divisions. He’s now retired and Hoffman still visits him.

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Kathy Johnson now trains Hoffman. “Kathy’s done an amazing job helping me mentally prepare for the ring. Until I started with Kathy, I wasn’t half the rider I am today. I owe it all to her,” Hoffman said.

Showing Joss and her young horse, Othello, 5, makes for a busy schedule for Hoffman, 35, who is the president of the group of radiology centers she and her husband own in the Phoenix, Ariz., area and the mother of three sons, ages 8, 6 and 3. “I have a great support team, including a great operational manager. I’m able to multi-task. I always have my Blackberry with me, so I’m constantly available by e-mail. I’ll work while I’m at the horse shows; I do a lot remotely, and I have a lot of good employees, who make it possible,” she said.

Hoffman holds her Ph.D. in clinical psychology but stopped working in her own field to help her husband establish their radiology centers. “I plan to get back into my field more in a charitable way,” she said.

While this year, Hoffman had definite goals for her show results—including year-end awards—she plans to spend next year “just having fun,” she said.

It’s Her Destiny

J.J. Atkinson rode her 10-year-old Holsteiner, Callino, to the win in the open jumper welcome stakes. Atkinson, the fifth generation of her California family to ride, shows as an amateur under the direction of trainer Frank Selinger in Calgary, Alta.

Atkinson was never in doubt about what she was going to do with her life. “I knew as a little kid, watching my aunt Jenny Newell ride, that I wanted to be a grand prix rider. It’s all I wanted to do,” she said.
 
Atkinson went to college, and for a time intercollegiate soccer took precedence over riding. Then a serious knee injury forced her to rethink her goals. “That is the best thing that happened to me, because it made me realize that riding is what I truly wanted to do,” she said.

Rehabilitation after reconstructive surgery had the advantage of strengthening her thighs and calves, preparing Atkinson for a return to serious riding. She moved to Calgary to begin training with Selinger and has never looked back. “I love it. I just breathe it every day,” she said. “People say, ‘You’re going to take a vacation from it,’ but a vacation for me is still riding.”

The Arizona Season Finale hosts the finals of the Greenway Saddlery/CEP equitation challenge. The finals are split into three groups: the mini, the children’s and the adult.

Alexa Avila of Cave Creek, Ariz., came home first in the mini. Avila, who trains with Sherry Templin, said the instructions she received were brief and to the point. “Just to make sure I got all my spots and to get energy,” Avila said. She and her large pony, Malibu Barbie, also won the Arizona Hunter-Jumper Association finals the previous week in Tucson.

Terri Baker of Phoenix took the blue in the children’s finals. Baker’s trainer, Alicia McNeil, knows better than to overburden her young students with instructions. “She said to have fun and do my best,” Baker said.

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The second round for the children’s finals was a gymnastics course. One of the tests was a trot in/canter out one-stride. Asked if she had been worried about the jump that caused trouble for several other competitors, Baker shook her head no. “He can do anything,” she said of her horse.

Brian Wee of Santa Barbara, Calif., earned the top call in the adult section of the finals. Wee, who trains with Leslie Nelson, was ecstatic. “It feels great. A dream come true,” he said.

Wee has been riding for most of his life—“I took my first lesson when I was 6,” he said—and has never lost his passion for the sport. “I love riding, and I love competing. It’s a perfect combination,” he said.

A New Job

Kristin Hardin rode her own Liesel to the championship in first year green division. Hardin, who lives in the remote California community of New Cuyama, bought the 6-year-old Oldenburg as a dressage prospect. That didn’t work out.

“She didn’t like the letters,” said Hardin, laughing. The mare did love to jump, however, and Hardin began campaigning her in the low and pre-green divisions. Liesel is huge, all of 18 hands, but carries herself like a much smaller horse. “She’s like a gentle giant. She feels like a dainty, petite horse to ride,” Hardin said.

Hardin has also taken the mare in some jumper classes to prepare her for what Hardin feels is her ultimate destiny. “She should be a famous equitation horse one day,” Hardin said.

Jane Fraze’s Mandarin was his usual championship self in the regular working hunter division with trainer Peter Lombardo, but Fraze did some winning of her own as well. She rode Chapman to the win in the adult amateur hunter classic.

Fraze had trouble getting along with the dark brown gelding at first and had actually advertised him for sale. Fraze had knee replacement surgery this summer, and after extensive physical therapy, rode the horse again. “My knee healed, and I got on, and I thought, ‘Oh, he’s pretty nice! I don’t want to sell him,’ ” she said.

“I love this horse now. We’ve worked out our differences in the lower level and have come right along. So next year we’ll step back up to the amateur-owners.”

Fraze gave full credit for Chapman’s turnaround to Lombardo. “He used to have 50 speeds, and he exercised the option to use every one of them in the ring. I was having trouble with that,” Fraze said. “Now Peter has him nice and steady in a rhythm, and my mistakes aren’t so big, so he can forgive them.”

Matt Hinton

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